The Other Side of Animation 114: Despicable Me 3 Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As you can tell, so far, my opinion on the Despicable Me franchise has been consistently, okay. Each film does something I like, but for every element I like, it does something that I don’t like. They have all been passable and harmless movies. And really, that’s sadly the term I would use for the studio, passable and harmless. They seem to be in this financially successful rut of not wanting to challenge themselves artistically. I respect and admire that not every film needs to be a Disney or Pixar heavy-weight, but at the same time, you can only go so far and so long in being successful when you are doing nothing different. Even though I like their film, SING, I still had plenty to dislike about it, and I can’t really say that I have a film of theirs I truly and utterly love and would recommend on the spot. I know there are talented people working on this franchise, and I think they don’t fully deserve a lot of this criticism, but you can’t help but think that they could be trying harder with their films. Sooner or later, another studio is going to come along, and be the next big thing, and Illumination will probably be in the same situation that Blue Sky was when they were churning out Ice Age sequels. I don’t want that to be the case, but if their future films are anything like Despicable Me 3, then I’m going to be concerned. Directed again by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, Despicable Me 3 came out June 30th, 2017, and while once again, gaining mixed reviews, was another billion dollar cash cow for the studio and Universal. So, where do I stand on the quickest franchise to reach a trilogy and a spin-off? Well, let’s see if my mind has changed with this film.

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The story starts off with Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, and his wife Lucy, voiced by Kristen Wiig, on a mission to stop an evil villain known as Balthazar Bratt, an ex-child star-turned super-villain, voiced by the co-creator of South Park, Trey Parker. The good news is that they stop Bratt from his plan of stealing a large diamond, but the bad news is that Gru and Lucy get chewed out and fired from the Anti-Villain League for not capturing him. While making sure to comfort his kids in knowing that they will be alright, Gru gets a letter and a surprise from his long-lost rich twin brother, Dru, voiced also by Steve Carell. Gru and his family decide to visit his brother, who tries to tempt Gru back into the world of villainy. Gru takes up his brother’s offer, and decides to use this opportunity to get at Bratt. All the while, the Minions are rioting, and have left Gru.  Lucy is trying to become a step-mother to Gru’s adopted daughters. Can they stop Bratt from pulling off an evil heist? Will Gru and Dru bond as brothers? Will this film try a bunch of storylines, while not putting in the effort into making those stories interesting?

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I would like to get into the criticisms with this one first, but I want to get into the positives first, because I don’t hate this entire movie. The animation is, once again, very impressive. It’s pretty much the same level of quality that Minions had. Though maybe it’s just me, but I think they got their physical comedy down. Like the other films, I did find myself laughing, and as usual, it helps when the comedic animation is snappy. It’s fast enough to not be too much, and a lot of the jokes land. Balthazar Bratt is definitely a more gimmick-focused villain, due to his 80s attire, gadgets, and, well, everything else about him. However, Trey Parker does a good job with this villain, and makes him the best villain of the franchise so far. I was curious to see how Trey Parker would handle the role, and he brought a lot of great energy to the character, even if he had some cringe/eye-rolling lines.

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I also respect that this film did attempt to do more than just be more comedy-oriented like the second film. I like that it brought up a few different storylines. I liked Gru and Dru’s chemistry and the stories about their parents’ reaction to them both growing up, I liked Lucy wanting to be a better mother to Gru’s kids, and I even like the mass majority of the Minions rioting and walking out on Gru because he isn’t being a super-villain anymore. I even like that throughout three major films, Gru is still a likable character. Even after being tempted to go back to the side of being a super-villain, he’s still getting back at Bratt to help his family. It would have been very easy for him to just think about himself and be this unlikable character, like Shrek was in the fourth film. Instead, he doesn’t want to stop being a father or a husband, and I like that. I was also surprised about how little the Minions were in the film. What you see in the trailers is basically what you see in the film. It has its hit-and-miss jokes, but it was decently entertaining.

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If you don’t think I have complaints about this film, then I don’t know where you have been for the past couple of reviews. Personally, Despicable Me 3 shows everything that is wrong with the franchise on a film and artistic level. For every plotline they set up, they either do the bare minimum into putting effort into said plotline, or go nowhere with it. Where do they go with Gru and Dru’s relationship and the fact their parents were both disappointed with them in their own separate ways? It goes nowhere. Where does Gru and Dru’s relationship go beyond a very soft “liar’s revealed” storyline? It goes essentially nowhere. How deep is the story arc of Lucy trying to be a good mother to the girls? It has barely any focus. Do they ever dive into social commentary about Bratt, and how Hollywood and entertainment treats child actors? They do not. What about one of the girl’s subplot about her faith that unicorns exist? They do nothing with it. Do the little girls get to do a whole lot? They get to do a whole lot of nothing! I know the girls are meant to be the “heart” of the franchise and films, but if you can’t find any meaningful way to fit them into the story, then write them out of the film, by saying they are off in summer camp or something. I also wish Dru was played by a different actor. It comes off as lazy and cheap that they essentially rehashed Gru’s character model, changed it up enough, and decided to save money by hiring Carell to do the other voice.

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There is so much going on, and yet, not a whole lot happens. When I wasn’t having one of the few occasional laughs, or being invested in the few decent heartfelt moments, I was bored. It once again feels like they had ideas, and the writers weren’t good enough to know what to do, or they weren’t given the freedom to risk a few elements to actually progress the story. It’s concerning, since this also made a billion dollars at the box office, and even more than that in DVD and merchandise sales. Am I missing something here? I feel like this franchise is going to turn into the new Ice Age franchise, if they don’t start putting in the effort to improve everything. Yes, I laughed, the animation is good, the voice cast does a fine job, and the action is fun to watch, but after watching the film, I was left not remembering much, or caring about what happened. It doesn’t help things that they basically set up a fourth film that’s now going to happen. In my opinion, if they cut out a few story arcs, and focused on sharper writing and storytelling, then we may have had a pretty good movie. Instead, we get fairly hollow storylines and wasted opportunities.

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In the end, Despicable Me 3 is fine. It’s probably the most average film I have ever seen out of the franchise so far. I liked Gru, Lucy, and the villain, but they weren’t strong enough to make this a good movie. It baffles me how people are finally sick of the Ice Age franchise, but are not sick of this franchise for becoming hollower and more manipulative than usual. It’s not a tough watch or anything, but if they don’t’ start improving, another studio is going to come marching on through with the next new shiny thing, and Illumination will be forgotten. I am not harsh on them, because of the community getting sick of Minions, I’m harsh on them because they are talented individuals working on these films, and yet, they are perfectly fine with being boiler-plate forgettable. I hope they can improve, and if they do, then I’ll be happy to be there at any screening, and to praise the hard work at making better films. For now, I’m tired of this franchise, and I need a break. Next time, we will look at the popular TV series known as HarmonQuest. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

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The Other Side of Animation 112: Despicable Me 2 Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

After any movie in the theater makes a small country’s worth of money, you know Hollywood will want a sequel. It’s always a shame when a sequel doesn’t always hit the mark, since you would believe a sequel to a super popular movie would be easy to do. All you really need to do is progress the story, characters, and not repeat anything from the last film. Sadly, we do have more bad sequels than good ones. So, where does Despicable Me 2 land? Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, Despicable Me 2 came out in 2013, and while it got mixed reviews, it was still a massive financial success by making $970.8 million on an increased $76 mil budget. It even got an oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, but lost out to Frozen. So, is it better than the original? Is it funnier than the first film? Or is this the start of the downfall of Illumination Entertainment as an animation studio? Let’s get down to it!

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Steve Carrell is back as Gru, now living as a happy single father with his three girls. One day, he gets a visit from a mysterious woman, and is then kidnapped by her. This dangerous individual with a lipstick taser is Lucy Wilde, voiced by Kristen Wiig. Lucy has taken Gru to an organization known as the Anti-Villain League to help out in a situation where a mutagen called PX-41 was stolen by an unknown super-villain. At first, Gru is reluctant to join, but after his partner in crime, Dr. Nefario decides to quit, since Gru is no longer a super-villain, Gru takes up the job, and joins Lucy in trying to find out who stole the mutagen.

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Once again, let’s start with the good stuff. First up on the docket, the animation is 10 times better than the previous film. Say what you will about Illumination Entertainment, they quickly improved the quality. Even in that terrible The Lorax film they did, you can tell they had their animation down by that point. Everything looks better, from the textures, to the designs, to the snappier movements. It leads to the comedy being a lot funnier. Speaking of comedy, one of the biggest complaints I had of the first film was that the villain was very weak. Thankfully, the villain this time, Eduardo “El Macho” Perez, voiced by Benjamin Bratt, is a very entertaining villain. While not super complex in any way personality-wise, he’s way more amusing with a better design, lines, and probably one of the most over-the-top goofy deaths in any animated comedy. One of the big new additions to the franchise is Kristen Wiig’s Lucy Wilde. I’m usually hit-or-miss with Wiig as a comedy actress, but I think she has a lot of charm, and a couple of good laughs as well. The minions are, of course, in the movie, and do have some great laughs. I’ll even say they have some of the better laughs in the film.

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Sadly, while I think this sequel does improve in a couple of ways, this is where the series started to go south for me. For one, the three daughters of Gru do not have a lot to do. Really, the oldest one played by Miranda Cosgrove has a “plot”, and even then, it’s very straight forward, and they don’t do anything with it. The other two get sidelined, and are just there because they have to be there. It’s not like they can retcon them, but you can at least do something with them. While I think Kristen Wiig is funny in this, her character is a bit too hyper and goofy. She becomes a bit much, and I think she would have been better as the slightly quirky, but serious agent that she was at the beginning of the film. The film also sadly trades in the heart for more wacky antics. It can be funny and very entertaining, but the heart and the action tend to lose a lot of its luster when there isn’t that much time to focus on the best aspect of it with Gru. I’m fine with a film trading story for comedy, but the comedy has to be good enough to forgive the lack of focus to the story. Sadly, the comedy is hit-and-miss. Some parts are really funny, and some parts aren’t. It once again has predictable story patterns that you know are going to happen, and not that I need to be surprised every time I watch a movie, I want the predictability to be entertaining. It also leaves the action to be pretty forgettable. The last third can be fun, but it doesn’t have the action seen in other animated comedies.

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While improving in many ways, Despicable Me 2 is also middle-of-the-road. I enjoyed watching it for this review, and for when I made my Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013, but I don’t see myself wanting to watch it again. It has its good moments, but is just passable enough to not be anything hugely mediocre. Now then, we shall move on to the point of no return as we dive into the first spin-off film of the franchise with Minions. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 111: Despicable Me Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, we are finally here. We are going to be talking about the cash cow of cash cow animation franchises, Despicable Me. I can’t think of a film franchise that took animation by storm in such a short amount of time than Despicable Me. Sure, we have had worldwide success stories for animation, but to be constantly successful, that’s at the very least commendable. Sadly, Despicable Me has also become one of the most hated franchises, due to the films being not high quality, oversaturation of Universal and Illumination’s marketing, and the fact that for animation/film goers, they find success while not trying hard. Well, I think it’s time to take a look at the franchise. For the rest of December, I’m going to be looking at the four films that are currently available. Let’s start at the very beginning with 2010’s Despicable Me. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, with a story by Sergio Pablos, this film came out of nowhere making $546 million on a $69 mil budget. That is of course not adding all the money they made on merchandise and DVD sales. Still, I thought I would look back and see how this film holds up. Does it deserve its legacy, or was it just a product of its time? Let’s see what happens.

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The story revolves around Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, a super-villain with plans of being the world’s best super-villain. After being discouraged that an unknown super-villain stole the pyramids, he decides to set up a goal of stealing the moon! With the help of his lab assistant, Dr. Nefario, voiced by Russell Brand, and his army of the now iconic Minions, Gru goes to try and steal a shrink ray being held by another villain named Vector, voiced by Jason Segal. After failing to do so, Gru decides to get the help of three orphan girls that were able to get past Vector’s security. The three are named Margo, Edith, and Agnes, voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher. Can Gru get the shrink ray, and steal the moon with the help of the three girls, or will he be only a middle-of-the-pack supervillain?

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Since this is before the time the films became annoying audience-fodder, I think it’s fair to talk about the good aspects. I know that sounds silly to the hyperbolic hate crowd, but the first film does have a few elements that are noteworthy. First off, Gru is a great character. He’s probably the most consistently likable element throughout the entire franchise. He’s energetic, his movements are lively, and he is the right amount of evil to be fun to watch. I think it helps that Steve Carrell brings in his comedic charm to the character. Sure, his character is nothing new or revolutionary, being the bad guy with a heart of gold, but his interaction with the characters is the heart of the movie. The voice work is also pretty spectacular. While a lot of the film’s voice work is done by celebrities you can recognize, you get a few performances that you wouldn’t recognize, like Russell Brand is unrecognizable in the film as the elderly Dr. Nefario. While the animation is starting to show its age, for a studio’s first comedic film outing, the physical Looney-Toons-style comedy is pretty funny. It has the right amount of snappiness that you would see perfected in the later films. It’s not too fast to be exhausting, but it’s not too slow for the comedy to not land. And yes, let’s talk about those little yellow pills known as the Minions. I know people are really sick of them now, due to being over-saturated in the pop culture world, they were pretty funny in this movie. They had good expressions, had some funny lines, and were the right amount of funny without being annoying. However, that is just me. I know that these guys have been the punching bag for what’s wrong with animation, pop culture, and so on. Still, for the time, they were genius and memorable.

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What works about this movie is that it’s kept fairly on course. While the film does have laughs, it also has the right amount of heart to keep you invested in-between the laughs. You do feel for Gru, and his interaction with his three adopted daughters, and while he tries not to connect with them, even a super-villain has his limits. Especially when he knows a carnival game is rigged when one of the girls wants a large stuffed unicorn. What I mean is that the story knows what it wants to happen, and it doesn’t deviate, or do a lot of the things the later films would do with having multiple subplots. No, the first film is just about Gru, the girls, the plan to steal the moon, and the other super-villain, Vector. I like when a story knows what it wants to do, and it gives characters equal screen time. No one felt like they got the short end of the stick in terms of a character arc.

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Unfortunately, the film does have some flaws. For one, Vector is the weakest part about this film. He has the most annoying lines and jokes, and his design is simply not that great. He almost looks out of place among everyone else. There was just nothing that pleasant or entertaining. I know the actor behind him, Jason Segal is doing his best, but I don’t think Vector’s lines were strong enough for the performance. The film is also fairly predictable. You know every story beat and character arc. I wouldn’t mind that, if the writing was better. It’s not an annoying movie to sit through, but the writing isn’t strong enough to excuse the fact that you have seen this style of movie before. Like I said above as well, the animation is starting to show its age. The designs aren’t fully there yet, the smoothness of the animation isn’t there yet, the textures aren’t there yet, and while it’s hard to explain, watch all the movies in order of release, and you will see what I mean. I’m impressed that it looks as good as it does for CGI animation on a non-Pixar/Disney budget, but I guess they couldn’t iron out all the kinks yet, or didn’t have the tech for it yet.

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Overall, I like the first film. I don’t think I would like to own this movie at all, but it was enjoyable. It was a film that wanted to be a solid romp, and for the most part, it succeeds. I know some can say this film lays the groundwork for why people have issues with Illumination Entertainment, but at least it’s still a decent movie to watch. It’s also an interesting time capsule film to watch, since while the franchise may have lost its appeal seven years later, it’s always interesting to go back and see where it all started. There is a reason why this franchise took off and makes millions for Illumination and Universal. Plus, I can think of multiple animated films that are worse than the first Despicable Me. If you surprisingly haven’t seen it, I see no harm in picking up a copy. Even then, I could see myself watching this with my niece. Well, we will now step into the sequel that came out three years later with Despicable Me 2. Thanks for reading the review! I hope you liked it, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 109: Leap! Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, we are going to be doing something I thought I would never get to do. Since The Weinstein Company is going belly-up, because of the two brothers being walking pieces of garbage who did horrible things (to put it lightly), I am going to be reviewing their last two animated films. I was planning on blacklisting them after Leap! and Guardian Brothers due to their actions, but now I technically don’t have to. I have made an editorial in the past about how horrible they are with animated films, and I think they were the worst distributors. They don’t respect the medium, and end up spending money on films by either needlessly editing the film or recasting the actors. To honor the closing of the massive studio (sorry to everyone losing their jobs because of the two running the company), let’s look at what will possibly be considered their “best” film, Leap! Also known as Ballerina, Leap! was a CGI animated film collaboration between France and Canada, and was directed by Eric Summer and Eric Warin. While it had a fairly small budget for a CGI-animated film at $30, it was a financial hit in theaters, making $130+ million. Unfortunately, once it hit the states, it pretty much came and went. I did see some ads for it, but not much else. I’m guessing it didn’t do well over here stateside, and what possibly caused Guardian Brothers to be put directly onto Netflix without a heads-up to anyone. So, how damaged is Leap!? Is it possibly their “best” movie, or is it right up there with their release of Doogal? Let’s check it out.

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The story follows an orphan girl named Felicie Milliner, voiced by Elle Fanning. She lives at an orphanage with her friend Victor, voiced by Dane DeHaan in the UK version and Nat Wolff in the US version. She dreams of one day becoming a famous ballet dancer and Victor wants to be a famous inventor. They escape the orphanage and the hands of the supervisor of the orphanage, played by Mel Brooks in the US version, and head to France! Felicie tries to get into the dancing school that she saw in a picture, but gets thrown out. She meets up with the cleaning woman of the dance school named Odette, who is played by Carly Rae Jepsen. Can Felicie end up being a great ballerina? Or will she be caught and tossed back into the orphanage?

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I remember when I first saw the British version of this film, I did not like it. I thought the film was generic, annoying, and just not very good. I was floored by how many people said they actually liked the movie. Looking back at my thoughts after seeing both versions, and seeing how much worse animated films got this year, I was probably harsh on it. That’s why I’m going to start with the good. For an animated film with $30 mil to its production budget, it doesn’t look that bad. It has its moments and bits of animation that show that it has a lesser budget than most mainstream-animated films, but it did have pretty good movements and solid overall visuals for a foreign collaboration. Even the designs have a pretty charming look to them. Granted, I know there are pictures all over the net where the characters look horrifying, and yeah, that is a problem at certain points in the movie, but for what you usually get with foreign CGI, it’s better than most CGI animated films. Everything is so lush. France is both beautiful and grimy, the countrysides look green and vibrant, and any time when the characters are doing serious ballet dancing, it’s fun to watch, due to the combination of everything. The characters are also likable. They aren’t unique in any way, but I found myself paying attention to the story arcs of the individual characters. Well, most of them I was invested into. Sure, you have your cheery-eyed lead, the stern teacher, the mentor who has a past, the rival classmate, the quirky male cohort, and so on, but at least you want to see the lead succeed in her dancing.

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Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. How does the Weinstein version compare to the British/UK version? Well, out of all the times I have watched a Weinstein-distributed animated film, for one reason or another, Leap! was not completely damaged by Weinstein’s infamous shenanigans with animated films. There are additional lines, and yes, some of them are eye-rolling, but they are not terrible additions. The added lines only appeared when the mouths couldn’t be seen. I still don’t get why they replaced some of the actors, since they weren’t going to reel in anyone, but for what it is worth, they are decent choices. I was surprised by Mel Brooks’ performance, because of how distinct his voice is. This isn’t one of his best performances, but he was not the most annoying part of the film. It’s like he was actually trying. Some voices that were left in the original dub were, and still are, super annoying at times, but the overall dubs of both versions are tolerable.

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Unfortunately, that is all the kindness I have for this film. It’s time to talk about the bad aspects of it. While it is pretty harmless, Leap! is very predictable, and I knew what was going to happen, and while I was interested in the lead’s goal of being a great dancer, the story simply doesn’t go in any interesting or unique directions. It doesn’t help that the characters she interacts with are generic, forgettable, or grating. I’m sorry, but unless someone convinces me otherwise, Nat Wolff is not good in this. Granted, I don’t know how you make the character he plays entertaining, but he was almost on the level of some of this year’s most annoying side characters. I found the last-minute villain to be way too over-the-top. It’s this mother of the rival student, and she basically resorts to murdering the lead and her friend, because her daughter couldn’t get the big lead role. It felt out of place, and I was laughing more than engaged, due to her actions. Like I said above, sometimes the animation shows its budget, and sometimes the animation does not look good. At the very least, it’s with the facial animation. I also wasn’t laughing at the jokes that were popping up in the film. They were very basic, and due to them not really working, it took me out of the experience.

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In the end, Leap! is a harmless film. It’s not the worst, but it’s not a great film either. However, I can take a wild bet a lot of young girls would love this movie. I think I would rather show them something like Moana, Princess and the Frog, or Zootopia first, but I can imagine worst movies to show to young girls. But since this is under The Weinstein label, I suggest avoiding it at all cost. Maybe if it pops up for free on Amazon Prime or Netflix, check it out, but there are so many more movies with strong female protagonists that are out there. Well, now that we got this one out of the way, it’s time we go to what will be Weinstein’s last animated feature that you probably never knew existed with Guardian Brothers. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 107: The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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When you are making a movie these days, you have to go all in with the commitment of making it. You have to put 100% into directing, writing, acting, editing, composing, and you get the idea. If you are not using all cylinders while in production, the end product is going to show. This is especially true with sequels, due to their infamous nature of not always being better than the first film. You would think that making a sequel would be easier, but that is sadly not always the case. There is a reason why so many film series should have only stayed as one movie. Hence the focus on today’s review, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature.  A sequel to the surprising financial hit from 2014, Nutty by Nature came out to the fanfare of no one. The original film got lucky, since it came out in January of 2014, made a lot of money during a month where mostly bad movies are dumped into theaters. Three years later, we have a sequel that had very little hype or excitement, and looked like a waste of time. To no surprise, this sequel to a film no one was asking for underperformed at the box office, only making a tiny bit over $40 mil on a $40 mil budget, and getting mostly negative reviews. I was not particularly looking forward to this one for obvious reasons, but after watching it, it’s the perfect example of my overall opening paragraph. What do I mean? Well, let’s see why no one went nutty over Nutty by Nature.

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The sequel picks up six months after the first film, as we follow Surly Squirrel, voiced by Will Arnett, living the big life inside the closed-down nut shop with his animal friends. They have all the nuts in the world to eat, and live like fat little piglets. Unfortunately for him and his friends, the store blows up, and they are forced to scavenge for food back in the park. Even more unfortunately for them, the mayor of the town, voiced by SNL alumni Bobby Moynihan, decides that he wants to tear down the park and make it an amusement park. It’s up to Surly and his friends to take back the park from the evil mayor and his animal control henchman played by Peter Stormare. Can Surly get the help of some city mice led by Jackie Chan to save the park? Have you seen any “save the environment” films from the 90s?

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Okay, before we talk about the bad, let’s talk about the good. First off, the animation is surprisingly solid. Textures don’t look so straight-to-video, movements are way more cartoony and fluid, and everything feels more polished than the first film. The original was decent, but I could personally argue that it wasn’t up to theatrical quality standards, but that’s just me. Thankfully, everything is way more lush and vibrant than the last film. You can tell the entire team wanted to make a better-looking movie, and it did so on a $40 mil budget. The physical comedy is way better as well. The previous film had decent physical comedy, but because of the mediocre animation, the jokes didn’t land. My guess is that the directors and writers watched what Warner Animation Group is doing with physical comedy, like in Storks, to learn proper Looney Toons-style comedy. The next improvement is that the film is way less mean-spirited, with characters who are more tolerable. Some are still as annoying as they were in the first film, but I wasn’t just grinding my teeth together waiting for characters that weren’t utterly terrible to appear onscreen. I think my two favorite characters were the villains, the mayor and the animal control guy. I think Peter Stormare and Bobby Moynihan were having a blast being cartoon levels of evil. They aren’t original villains, or villains that are interesting, but for this type of movie, they were way more entertaining than they could have been, and probably had some of the best lines in the movie. The action in this film is also well executed, especially when you have Jackie Chan coming into play, who probably has some of the best scenes in the later part of film. They even have this cute romance between the pug and the mayor’s French bulldog. All throughout the film, you can tell the people making it tried harder. They put more effort into the writing, the animation, the comedy, and put out a better product.

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With all that said, this film is by no means one of 2017’s best animated films. As much as I say everything has improved, a lot of the humor and writing is not great. It’s very weak writing, and if you have seen the film, you know they milk one joke multiple times. It’s not all that clever humor either. I think the only times I got laughs out of the film was because of the execution of the line read from the actors. Sometimes, a good comedic actor can make a bad joke work. Another huge problem is that the film is painfully generic. If you have seen any, and I do mean any environmental films, then you know how it’s all going to go down. I know not every film needs to be a “masterpiece” or on the level of Pixar, but if you are going to do something we have seen before, you had better execute it well, or get really creative. Sadly, the story is painfully simple with humans being evil, and the animals having to save the day. Heck, they heavily advertise Jackie Chan’s character for being in the movie, but he’s in it for pretty much 20 minutes total. Due to the lackluster writing, I didn’t find myself really caring about the emotional moments with all of the characters. Some interactions were cute, but when they tried to make you feel for the characters, it felt out of place.

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It’s an infuriating sit. You can tell the team behind the sequel tried harder, got the animation to work, improved the characters, and the story. However, they didn’t go full tilt on improving everything else. It’s not super funny, I didn’t care about the other characters, and in the end, I was perfectly fine with the film underperforming. The original back in 2014 got lucky because it was a family-animated film in January, and the studio thought they could get another financial hit with a sequel. For some reason or another, the movie-going audience said “we didn’t want this”, and made sure no one saw it. It’s an overall harmless film, but if you were going to get an animated film of this year to rent or purchase, I would pick up In This Corner of the World. It’s cheaper than buying The Nut Job 2, and it’s 100% better. If you do decide to watch it, eh, I hope you get some enjoyment out of seeing it. Next time, we are going to look at what is considered one of DC’s biggest disappointments in animation with Batman & Harley Quinn. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 100: Delgo Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, here we are! The 100th animation review. I’m honestly pretty proud of making it this far. The main goal was to talk about the lesser known animated films, because that is more interesting and fun to talk about, than the big named animated films. Over the 100 reviews, I have seen the animation world change, like DreamWorks being bought by Universal, Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings making a huge fight for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, and watching as GKids becomes a bigger deal among animation enthusiasts. It even led me to talk about stuff I normally wouldn’t be interested in, like the Oscars and their new ruling for animated features. I have also gained a good sizable following from people who enjoy animation and maybe haven’t heard about some of the films I talked about. I can’t wait to see how the industry moves forward for the next 100 reviews. Now, this is a special occasion, and it deserves a special movie. Since I make it a tradition for every 10th review to be something infamous and notorious, well, it was not hard to pick what can be considered one of the biggest animation disasters of all time with Delgo.

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While, for some reason, it is incredibly hard to find information on Delgo, it is known as the biggest failure in terms of a wide release theatrical animated feature. The film was directed my Marc F. Adler, who also produced it and came up with the story for the film. Supposedly, the film took a span of nine years from start to finish. Instead of getting help from Hollywood, he went out of his way to get outside help to fund, animate, and create this notorious flop. They even did stuff that probably added more to the cost by flying out to each individual actor’s place of living to voice their lines there, and not have them come to them. Heck, two of the actors actually died before the film was released. After being put together by “fresh out of the university” animators, who went under stage names for obvious reasons, Delgo was released in over 2,000 theaters with the help of Freestyle Releasing in 2008. Unfortunately for all the work Marc F. Adler and his crew did to be the next big animated hit with no help from Hollywood, the film was an utter failure from critics, the three film-goers who actually went to see this, and financially. Out of a meager $40 mil budget, not including other things like small marketing and such, it only recouped a little over $900K. Yeah, when you can’t even break a million, that says something for the quality of this film. I also held back the review for Delgo, because not only is it one of the biggest bombs in terms of animated films, it pretty much killed everyone’s career or killed their careers even more so than ever. Think about it, name one actor or person behind the scenes that went on to do better things after this film. None of them really had a career after this film. Maybe some success in more recent years, but this was a career killer for sure. So, after almost 10 years since its release, how does the film hold up? Well, let’s find out.

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The story takes place in this very Dark Crystal-like world known as Jhamora, where two different beings live. Some of these beings are humanoid lizard people, and the others are the same type of humanoid lizards, but can fly. Our story follows the journey of Delgo, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. He lives in a post-war world, where the flying individuals invaded and attacked his people. Suffice it to say, he and a majority of his people have a hate for the ones that can fly. One day while hanging out with his friend, Filo, voiced by Chris Kattan, he ends up running into the princess of the flying people named Kyla, voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt, and her two generals, Bogardus and Raius, voiced by Val Kilmer and Malcolm McDowell.  After getting to know her some more, Delgo finds out about an evil plot from an exiled flyer named Sedessa, voiced by Anne Bancroft in her last role before her death, and must save the day with the help of his friends and the princess. Can he stop the two nations from getting into another catastrophic war?

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Let’s talk about the animation first. I think with talking about this film in general, it’s good to start off with its most glaring visual flaw. For a film that took eight or so years to make, it’s really ugly. I would argue it’s the ugliest theatrical animated film that I have ever seen. Yeah, Norm of the North had probably objectively worse visuals, but that was meant to be straight-to-video before it was forced into theaters. Delgo was meant for theaters and for that standard alone, it’s lackluster. It’s no better looking than Spark, and that film came out nine years later. It has all the hallmark signs of bad animation. It has stiff movements, flat textures, character designs are bland or really unappealing to look at, and movements and characters riding animals feel like there is no weight to them, and everyone is in front of a green screen. I want to know what exactly happened. This film had a budget of $40 mil. That’s $10 mil more than Toy Story. Heck, Delgo probably would have looked better if it came out around the same time Toy Story came out in 1995, but it came out in 2008, and it looks incredibly dated. I want to know what happened. Not in a stereotypically angry reviewer sort of way, but in a curious kind of way. Was it bad direction? Was it animators who were not that great and too fresh out of art school? Like, one day, I would love to see what happened with this film in some kind of documentary with people who worked on it or invested money into it. Anyway, the film’s art style is definitely trying to capture a vibe and atmosphere similar to The Dark Crystal, since they made their own universe that isn’t based on a book or a preexisting property. It doesn’t work, since the designs do not translate well. I wonder if they couldn’t update the technology or the designs in time, because nothing looks good. The entire film looks like a rough draft of what to do next, but they either ran out of money or time to get it out there. After all that time making the film, we are left with a world that’s not interesting to look at with ugly character designs.

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So, the animation is really terrible, but what about the characters and story? Well, the director and overall person in charge of this film, Marc F. Adler, wanted this to be the next big Lord of the Rings and Star Wars-style epic. You know, something that’s fantastical and epic, but set in a fictional world. Well, from start to finish of this film’s production, we have had the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Original Star Wars Trilogy rereleased in theaters, and the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. Too bad this film couldn’t fix or update its script or characters to not feel dated on arrival. These characters are nothing more than just walking templates. You have the brash naïve young hero, the annoying side-kick, the pretty girl, the two evil generals to do the two general storyline of one staying evil and one redeeming himself, an evil villain for no other reason than to just be evil, bland side characters, and the hero’s parents who have two minutes of screen time before being axed off. They do nothing original or interesting with the characters in this film. They even make some of them unintentionally unlikable. For example, Chris Kattan’s character’s “wacky” antics actually gets Val Kilmer’s character axed off. Way to go. Even the story itself is so recycled and boring, that it becomes a tough sit. I know some people are like, “you have to judge this from the point of view of a kid watching this movie”. Well, you know what? No kid actually went to see this, and it didn’t become a cult hit like Cats Don’t Dance. I think kids made it clear that this film would bore anyone to tears. Even the fantasy elements have been done before. Why do you think I keep comparing it to The Dark Crystal? Fights are also not that fun to watch. Everyone is too floaty, and unlike Kung Fu Panda, which came out the same year, they don’t take advantage that, hey, they have animation and can make fights as amazing as they want them to be. Apparently, while making this film, they hired real-life people, and filmed them for reference for the animators. It really does show that it looks like motion capture when it wasn’t. It takes something as creatively unlimited as animation and makes it boring. How do you do that? For a medium that has been improved, perfected, and reinvented over a span of 71 years, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to when Delgo was released, Delgo makes the entire medium of animation boring. Congratulations, that is quite the hyperbolic task.

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None of the actors bring anything that voice actors couldn’t have brought themselves to the table. Everyone sounds so wooden and uninterested, and that’s a shame. You have actors like Val Kilmer, Malcolm McDowell, Eric Idle, Michael Clarke Duncan, Burt Reynolds, and Melissa McBride in this movie, and none of them were there to be interesting. That’s another problem with the film, the actors they got to be in this movie. None of them were that great or super popular by 2008. Times change, and actors drop out of popularity, because they pick movies that don’t help them stay relevant. I think the only one who did a good job was Michael Clarke Duncan, but that’s because he was awesome, and is one of the few actors I honestly miss since his passing. What about everyone else? They were there for a paycheck. Yeah, that’s a proper way of going into a movie, not to improve your talent or leave a lasting impression, but just to get money.

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This film is so aggravating to sit through as a movie. Why? Because I was never once pulled into the movie, I was never once caring or feeling emotionally invested, and never once was I in a good mood watching this. All this time, money, and talent wasted on a movie that’s so bland, boring, forgettable, and a waste of time, when I could have been watching something else. This is why people are so angry with bad movies. They took time and money to see a movie, did not like it, and felt like they got conned. I can even get the idea of sitting through something bad for entertainment, like watching M.D. Geist or for some strange reason, Norm of the North. Delgo is a film that came out a decade late, and other films that have had the same elements have been better and more entertaining.

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So, what can I find to say that’s good? Well, like I said, Michael Clarke Duncan was one. I think he’s a hugely entertaining actor with a unique voice. I will also give this film the very tiniest amount of credit that it was at least trying something original. It wasn’t original in terms of themes, characters, and execution, but it wasn’t based on a book or preexisting property. In a time where films are coming out that are based on nothing, but preexisting properties wildly ranging in quality, with better original movies being left in smaller releases, this one dared to be something that stood out. It doesn’t work, but hey, at least you tried to make something original.

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Without a doubt, Delgo is the worst animated movie that I have ever seen. It doesn’t do one thing correct, and even though it’s only 80 minutes long, it feels like three hours. If I had to choose a film that I would love to never watch again, it’s Delgo. From start to finish, everything is wrong. On the other hand though, I feel badly for the people that wanted this to be a reality. You work hard for almost ten years getting outside investments and tech, along with the actors you want to make the movie your big breakout hit. Sadly, upon release, you realize that all that work went down the drain as you watch your project go down in history as one of the worst animated films of all time, and one of the biggest box office disasters of all time. Actors lose any potential future acting gigs, and your name is stuck to this project. In the end, I do feel badly that the project failed. It had potential, but it was squandered by incompetent development, and trying too hard to not get big studio help. We might like to complain about how bad big studios are, but sometimes, it’s good to have one that has your back. I would only recommend checking out Delgo if you are super curious about bad movies or about bad animation in history. Otherwise, just let it be. Well, 100 reviews is quite a feat to make, and I want to thank everyone who read, commented, and helped me get through any personal obstacles. It was a fun journey to get to 100 animation reviews, and I’m excited to see what will happen in the next couple of  years in the film and animation industry, as we make our way to 200 reviews. Next time, we are going to check out and review the best animated film of 2017 that I have seen so far, with In This Corner of the World. Thanks for reading, I hope you all liked my 100 reviews, and will love 100 more, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: The Worst/Blacklisted

The Other Side of Animation 98: The Emoji Movie Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

 

Every year, we always hear the loud wails and haunted screams that cinema is dead. It just so happens that in 2017, with Sony Pictures Animation’s The Emoji Movie, it just got too loud to ignore. The film is directed by Tony Leondis, a story artist and director. He worked on films like The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, Kronk’s New Groove, Home on the Range, and directed Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a GlitchIgor, and Kung Fu Panda: Secret of the Masters. For some reason, out of all the years of movies made, The Emoji Movie just drove people up a wall. It came out a few weeks ago, and instantaneously, it was labeled as the worst movie of all time, the death of cinema, people were saying and demanding that Sony Pictures of Animation should be shut down, and you get the idea. Even though we made it through years that had Movie 43, Jack & Jill, Pixels, Gods of Egypt, 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades of Black, Meet the Blacks, Legend of Hercules, Saving Christmas, Troll 2, North, and so on, The Emoji Movie is the one that broke the camel’s back. Listen, it’s not a good movie, but people are overreacting and going into hyperbole territory to get clicks and views. Why would I say that if I just admitted that it was not a good movie? Well, let’s pick your favorite emoji and send that text.

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The entire story takes place inside one teen’s phone, as we enter the world of Textopolis, a city where all the emojis live. We focus on one in particular emoji named Gene, voiced by T.J. Miller. He is a “meh” emoji, who has a bit of a problem. He can’t simply be a “meh”, and has too many emotions to count! After a failed first day on the job, Gene wants to find a way to fix himself by hacking the code to solve his problem. He gets the help of a high-five emoji, voiced by James Corden, and a hacker emoji named Jailbreak, voiced by Anna Faris. Hopefully, they can get past the dastardly grasp of Smiler, a creepy smile emoji voiced by Maya Rudolph. Can Gene fix himself and somehow help the teen out in a real world problem of getting to know a girl?

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The biggest problem about talking about this film is while it will not affect the actual rating of this film, I have to talk about the overwhelming clickbait/hyperbolic backlash this film has gotten. People call it the worst movie of the year, the worst movie of all time, and the film that is what’s wrong with cinema. It’s not because I’m going to be defending this film as something good. It’s not a good movie by any stretches of the imagination, and is definitely on the lower end of my best to worst animated films of 2017, but people need to really stop acting like this is the film that’s going to kill cinema. Like I said above, people are using clickbait and hyperbolic opinions of this movie to get views, clicks, and whatever, and making it out to be a worse movie than it actually is. If there was a film that made the cinema industry actually halt in their tracks, then we have pretty much survived hundreds of extinctions after every time some knucklehead said, “this is the film that will kill the film industry”. It’s officially gotten to the point that if you are using hyperbole in your review or comment, I’m not going to take your opinion seriously. I know that sounds close-minded and very one-sided, but we live in a world where there are worse things going on every single day, and yet The Emoji Movie is apparently worth more of your anger than anything else. And to the people who want the studio that made this to shut down because they didn’t like it, or are stuck in a bad situation because of executive shenanigans, you have no right to say they should force 100s of people to lose their jobs because you don’t like their movie. It’s the most immature mentality that I have ever seen, and if you are that toxic about it, then you need to get a life.

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Let’s face honest 100% objective fact here, The Emoji Movie is not a good movie, but it’s the wrong kind of bad movie. It’s not the most super offensive thing with super hate-worthy characters and cheap straight-to-DVD quality animation. It’s not Norm of the North or Strange Magic levels of bad. Heck, I have seen movies that I enjoy that have way more repulsive elements to it like Belladonna of Sadness. It’s just boring bad. It’s a bad movie that doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, because the film itself feels like they had a base idea around what they wanted to do, but couldn’t or were not allowed to get past the “cynical cash grab” look and feel of the film. The universe this film takes place in is kind of confusing, since if you think about it, why are there emojis that have to be one emotion, while there are shrimp, elephant, and Christmas tree emojis that don’t coincide with a single personality? I mean, should they be deleted as well? Its world is not as clever that I think the writers are making it out to be. I don’t see other whimsical realms that our heroes go through, I just see the product placements that companies paid the most to have advertised in the film. It’s a universe with no real soul or identity to it. A bland world is one thing, but what about the three leads? Well, despite having good actors behind them, there is nothing really all that interesting about them. Gene is your generic lead who thinks being unique isn’t a good thing. James Corden, while super entertaining in other forms of media, has no real character with the high-five emoji, since all he does is try to spew a joke every 30 seconds. Jailbreak is obviously trying to be like the female lead from The LEGO Movie, but has none of the charm of said character. I also kind of love the horrible implication in this universe that if you stand out in this world, you deserve to die. What about the human characters? Yeah, couldn’t really get hooked on them either. They don’t act like real kids, but that, “I’m trying to make this kid like the one you saw in Inside Out, but not understanding that the girl in Inside Out was a complex character.” I also found a lot of the celebrity casting distracting, like Patrick Stewart as the poop emoji. Like, I get there is a bit of that niche-style appeal of, “oh tee hee, this wildly acclaimed actor is voicing poop”, but outside of that, again, I only saw the celebrities, and not the characters.

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I feel like this movie would have been so much better with maybe more freedom to the writers to do something more complex, or go full-tilt cynical. Like, I could imagine this film being way more interesting if it was a cynical lashing out at the audience who the execs think would watch this movie. Go black comedy on the characters and such, and sneak in some legit good morals inside the cynical jokes and clever writing. What happened is that they probably got a set of writers who wanted to go full-tilt and go crazy, but either weren’t allowed to, or were not talented enough to do such a thing. You can see how this movie could have worked if it was aimed at a more general audience and not just one part of the movie-going audience. That’s why films like Inside Out and The LEGO Movie were so amazing, because they could talk to every part of the audience. They weren’t talking to one side, and ignoring the other. The Emoji Movie is just a generic film with generic writing and morals. It’s something we haven’t seen a hundred times over in other movies, and have done a better job at saying these messages.

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So, what’s actually good about this movie? Well, the animation is pretty solid. I know the designers on Twitter spoke highly about having fun working with the designs, and the characters move pretty well. Even the human characters look better than most DreamWorks movies. The designs might be basic, but emojis are generally very basic in terms of designs. At the very least, this movie has more theatrical-quality animation than a lot of animated films that get limited releases by Lionsgate. I also enjoyed Maya Rudolph as the villain. She was hugely entertaining as this psychotic smile emoji, and she definitely had fun with the role. I also liked Gene’s parents, who were played by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge. Any time they were on screen, I at least got a chuckle out of their delivery of their lines. It’s not the perfect mix of casting and writing, like Lewis Black as Anger in Inside Out, but it’s ideal casting in terms of who should play the meh emoji. The one scene I thought was pretty cool was when Gene’s parents were inside the Instagram app. I liked the idea of going inside a photo and it brings you into that photo’s location and everything around them is still. It was a nice artistic moment that I can respect.

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In the end, everyone is overreacting to this, and ironically going to see it because of said hyperbole. We have had cash-grab films made every year, like Dragonball Z Evolution, Jem and the Holograms, Baywatch, and so on. If Hollywood didn’t crumble and fall after those films, then it won’t with this one. The Emoji Movie is just a forgettable and bland film. I was honestly bored watching the movie, and spent a lot of time thinking what I would have done to make it a better movie than simply just a cash-grab/advertisement movie. It wants to be so many other films, but fails to do anything those films did well. If you really want to see it, just wait to rent it. It’s making enough to make back its budget, and it will just underperform before it leaves theaters. It’s bad, but it’s not the worst, and no one at Sony Pictures Animation deserves to lose their jobs over it. Now, if you want to see a really cynically made movie, join me next time as we talk about Digimon The Movie. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Lackluster!